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Abstract

Power is manifested in many ways within immersive study abroad experiences. One of the paradoxes of this reality is that structures of power simultaneously create the conditions necessary for immersive community engagement programs to exist as well as limit the action, voice, and autonomy of the actors involved in the community engagement. Unequal power relations are an enduring dilemma of this kind of work even when the intention is to “join in community” with others to learn, create, and build relationships side by side for mutually beneficial purposes. In this paper we offer lessons we have learned, and continue to learn, in a rural South African community called Makuleke. We focus on strategies that we have found effective for mitigating the power differential between ourselves and our community partners in Makuleke. One is arriving without an agenda and another is intentional cross-cultural exchanges that demonstrate our respect for village knowledge and language. These lessons arguably extend well beyond the boundaries of this small village.